How many Google Drive tips and tricks do you know already?
Since Google Docs was born in March 2006, anyone who wrote anything online switched to the cloud-based service and never looked back.
It was a great day for humanity.
Most of us are familiar with Google Docs' effortless collaboration. But few take advantage of all the tips and tricks available.
So here's a complete list of features and shortcuts to help you create more content in less time.
1. Formatting Shortcut Tips
You'd be surprised how much time is wasted moving a cursor around a screen if you're not using shortcuts.
Used regularly, these formatting hotkeys will save you a ton of time.
- Ctrl+Alt + [heading number] (Windows) or ⌘+Option+[heading number] (Mac): Adds headers
- Ctrl+B (Windows) or ⌘+B (Mac): Bolds copy
- Ctrl+U (Windows) or ⌘+U (Mac): Underlines copy
- Ctrl+I (Windows) or ⌘+I (Mac): Italicizes copy
- Alt+Shift+5 (Windows) or ⌘+Shift+X (Mac): Strikes through copy
- Ctrl+Shift+> or < (Windows) or ⌘+Shift+> or <(Mac): Increases and decreases font size
- Ctrl+\ (Windows) or ⌘+\ (Mac): Clears all formatting
2. Google Doc Outline View
This Google Doc tip is easy to overlook, but it speeds up content creation for both you and collaborators.
The document outline view shows you a complete breakdown of all header tags in your document.
The discrete column appearing on the left lets you mouse over to view the full text of each section and double-click a header to jump straight to that section.
It's similar to the table of contents (ToC) mentioned below, except it's always handy no matter your scroll depth.
3. Add a Table of Contents
This is one of my favorite Google Docs tips. I use a table of contents on all my Docs (just ask my team). They’re super helpful on longer documents with multiple headings.
Most people don’t realize that after you create it, you can click on an item in the contents, and click again to jump to that section.
This is a major boost to the user experience when creating cornerstone content or other longform articles.
You can also copy that link and share it with others, allowing them to load the Doc and jump straight to that subheading. To create a ToC:
- Set the cursor at the top of your document.
- Go to the Insert menu and select Table of Contents (it's at the very bottom).
- Choose either a ToC with page numbers or with page links.
4. Voice-to-Text Typing
Google Docs now has built-in voice recognition and it's ridiculously accurate, especially considering it's free. This feature works better if you have a quality microphone.
If you get into it, consider purchasing a USB condenser mic such as the Blue Snowball for the best results.
Here's how to use this feature.
- In the Google Docs menu, click Tools.
- Go to Voice Typing.
- A small microphone will pop up on the left side of your screen.
- Click it whenever you want to use the voice typing feature.
You can also use these shortcuts:
- ⌘+Shift+S (Mac)
- CTRL+Shift+S (Windows)
5. Google Drive Sharing Explained
Sharing on Google Docs can be a little confusing at first. By far the trickiest thing is making sure that you have your documents correctly shared before sending other people the link.
Otherwise, when the recipient tries to open it, they need to email you an access request which can be frustrating.
In any case, here are some Google Drive tips to get sharing right.
- Public on the web - Makes a link available to the public and can even be found by search engines. Max 200 people can view a public document at any one time.
- Anyone with the link - Anyone with the link can either access or edit. depending on the drop-down menu selection appearing just underneath these three options. Ideal for sharing somewhat private info with people you trust.
- Off - Only people invited via email can either view or edit the document, depending on the drop-down setting selected.
Note you can use all of the above options on entire folders which saves you time adjusting the sharing for each document inside.
Also, see the check boxes at the bottom of the sharing options for additional privacy options when sharing sensitive information.
6. Insert URLs Fast
Highlight some text and hit ⌘+K (Mac) or Ctrl+K (Windows) and Google will search for a URL and give you the option to insert it. This feature isn't 100% perfect, but when linking brand names to the corresponding website, it does save time.
You can also link to a header in the Doc by going to the Insert menu and selecting the header dropdown.
7. Use the Explore Feature
If you're tired of swapping tabs or browser windows to find images or dig out research from Google, there's an easier way.
Google Explore is the speech icon with a four-pointed star you'll find at the bottom right-hand side of your screen. It was introduced around 2017 and provides many time-saving features.
Explore just needs a little content in your Google Doc so it has some context to work with. Just hit the icon and you'll see suggested topics based on what you're writing.
Naturally, being Google, it's possible to punch in keywords to search each of the below tabs.
Web shows you the results from Google's search engine on your chosen topic.
Images show you a Google image search. Hit the + symbol to add an image to your Doc and mouse over it to view applicable copyright restrictions.
If you need to pull data from related content in your Google Drive, see this tab.
This tip for developing your Google Drive documents can be used with both Docs and Sheets.
8. Use Editing and Other Modes
There are three primary modes in Google Docs creation. You'll find the option to select each in the upper right-hand side of your screen.
The standard editing mode. Not much to see here.
If you're handing in something important and don't want to accidentally hit the keyboard and mess up the content, this one's worth using.
This is an interesting one. With Suggesting mode selected, each edit you make to the document will strike-through deleted or edited copy, underlining new copy for editors to either accept or reject. Edits are color-coded by user so you can see who suggested what at a glance. It's a godsend for collaboration.
9. Add Comments & Notify Others
When collaborating, you can add a comment on highlighted text and tag specific people so they're notified via email. It's great for collaborating on a deadline and separating out comments that are notes to yourself or not intended for everyone contributing.
How to add a comment & notify someone:
- Highlight the text you want to comment on.
- Click the text box with the plus sign to the right of the page. Shortcuts are:
- ⌘+Option+M (Mac)
- Ctrl+Alt+M (Windows)
- If you want to tag someone and notify them, type @[name here]. If you’ve emailed with them through your Gmail account, it should auto-fill their info.
Also, if you're viewing a Google Doc with more than one person you'll see a chat button at the top right-hand side and you can chat freely as you collaborate.
It's a pretty handy Google Doc tip, but a VoIP call is more effective at making it feel like you're in the same room while you work together on an article.
10. Find and Restore Past Versions
The revision history can be a lifesaver in many situations.
Every few minutes Google snapshots your document's current state, creating a library of versions you can revisit and restore at any time.
11. Get Add-Ons
It's good to wait til you've got a little free time before jumping into Google's Add-on store. It's FULL of useful apps. To save you time, here's a shortlist to get you started.
- Table Formatter
While you can create some tables in Google Docs, the feature isn't quite as developed as it could be. Table Formatter has 60 templates to choose from and makes customization easy.
- Doc Builder
Whether it's a blog template or any other text you add to Google Docs regularly, you can save it with Doc Builder and load it up with 1-Click.
- Text Cleaner
If you mess up some formatting, the 'Clear formatting' option in Docs removes the formatting throughout the entire document. Text Cleaner lets you highlight the problem area and remove the formatting in specific copy.
- Lucidchart Diagrams
Lucidchart is an online chart creation tool that's made a handy Google Docs add-on to quickly embed visualized data to your Docs.
- Code Blocks
Finally, a handy one for you coders out there. Code Blocks allows you to put your code, complete with that soothing black background, straight into the Google Doc.
If you know any other must-have add-ons for Google Drive, let us know in the comments!
12. Use Google’s Template Library
At the time of writing, there's an impressive library of over 60 templates in Google Docs. You'll find templates for resumes, brochures, letters, business process manuals and more.
13. Set Up Offline Mode
Offline mode is another feature that can get you out of a jam, especially if you live somewhere susceptible to power and/or Internet outages.
Go to the Settings and enable offline mode to sync your Google Docs locally. Next time you have no Internet, you can continue to work as if you did.
14. Drag from Keep into Google Docs
On the right-hand side of your Google Doc, there's a small yellow lightbulb icon. This is the logo of Google's note-taking app, Keep. Click it to drag your notes straight into the Doc.
Keep is a great place to note content ideas that spring to mind when you're out and about so you're not trying to remember them when you return to your desk.
Did I Miss Any?
Let me know your tips for Google Docs or Drive in the comments below!
Author: Joel Widmer
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